Inspecting the Inspector
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I dropped my briefcase on the floor beside my desk and sank into my
chair. It had been a long (working) weekend, and now it was
Monday, and the work would just go on. I was sure Joe
Sibliani, my boss, would give me some comp time if I asked for it, but
I had four cases pending, and without a partner I wasn't going to be
able to look for any slack time soon.
There was a post it note on my computer monitor that said "Happy
Birthday - Joe" on it. It wasn't my birthday, so I knew Joe
had something for me. The "happy birthday" part wasn't
necessarily an indication that I'd like whatever he had. It
had better not be another case, though. I knew
that. I was already overloaded, and he knew it. The
public didn't really understand what cutbacks meant in a government
investigative agency. What they meant was that already
overloaded public servants - and that's exactly what I was - decided to
retire early, thus reducing the ranks of experienced investigators even
more, until the whole investigative mission began to implode.
And without a watchdog ... well, the wolf rules.
I levered myself up and out of my chair to go see Joe. I felt
like I was in my sixties instead of forty-three. That came
from too many hours at work, too many hours in the car getting to my
next interview or case and back, and too little sleep. And
I'm fifteen pounds overweight, but I don't have time to do anything
Joe is just as overworked as the rest of us. He was behind a
mountain of paperwork when I stuck my head in his office door.
He looked up. "I didn't bellow. I left you a
note. And it was even pink, which I felt was doing my part to
spruce up your area and brighten your day."
"I'm overwhelmed at your enthusiasm" I said. "On second
thought, I'm only whelmed."
"Well," said my boss, looking grave. "I think you'll change your tune
when you see what else I got you. I managed to get you a new
partner. Try not to ruin her, OK?"
"Her?" My eyebrows rose.
I have nothing against women in law enforcement, especially the kind we
do, which is basically white collar fraud investigations. I
was an MP in the Army for seven years, and while I had some great male
partners, there is a kind of built in competition between males, even
when they're friends. But when you have a female partner, a
lot of that competitiveness just disappears. It's easier to be a real
team with a woman. Of course there is the potential for
sexual tension, but I've found that if there's any attraction to start
with, it tends to ease off after you get to know each other well
enough. Especially if she's married. I've never married, but
I respect the institution. And jealous husbands can kill you
just as easily as anybody else.
My surprise was more because fraud investigations don't seem to be a
draw for most women. I don't know why. Maybe it's
the attention to detail that's required, or the incredible crushing
boredom of sifting through a mountain of paperwork to find one tiny
clue. It is almost literally like looking for a needle in a
haystack. But I've been doing it for sixteen years,
and that gives you some perspective and time to refine your
techniques. Suffice it to say I've developed a kind of magnet
to search for that needle with.
"Yes, her," said Joe. "She's young, but she's
motivated. It would be nice if she stayed that way for more
than six months. You have a way of wearing down a partner,
and I would prefer that in this economic environment, that you refrain
from doing that this time."
"I'm not the one wearing anybody down," I said. "It's the job
that's wearing people down."
"Don't start with me," said Joe, but there was no heat in his
voice. He knew the deal as well as I did. "Just go
solve something so I can throw that in the face of the bean counters."
"We're the bean counters," I pointed out, grinning.
He frowned. "I mean the ones who are fucking up our nice,
not-so-comfy existence by cutting the funds we have to work with."
"Yeah," I said. "That's what all our customers say about us
"Go break in your new partner!" snapped Joe. "And I don't
mean break her."
"Do I just get to pick any female I happen to see, or are you going to
give me a name?" I asked, looking innocent.
"Kelani Tokorau," he said. "She should be in records, getting
the rundown on the forms we use.
"Kelani," I said. "Interesting."
"No it's not. And behave yourself. This girl is
young enough to be your daughter."
"I'm starting to get interested," I said, grinning again.
He looked straight at me. "Consider me her father,
Bob. And you know how I feel about office romances.
Don't make me transfer her. Or you, if she turns out to be as
good an investigator as she is a good looking woman."
"Yes sir, Daddy, sir," I laughed. "When was the last time you
saw me chasing a skirt around this place?"
"You haven't seen this skirt yet," he grumbled. "Now get out
of here. Go solve crime!"
I left and, instead of heading back to my desk, which is what I would
normally have done, I went in search of a skirt named Kelani.
I served a tour in Korea while I was in the Army. Korean
women don't age well, for the most part. But when they're
young, they're amazingly good looking. There is a cultural
thing going on which makes a Korean girl act humble and
submissive. Trust me. At heart she is anything but
submissive. And there is usually some language barrier to
overcome, and if you don't understand what your man just said, it's not
odd to simply sit and hope that further edification is
forthcoming. So a lot of GIs come to the wrong
conclusion and snap up the cute young things. Then they take
them home to the U S of A where the girl can really flower.
Sometimes it even works well for the couple. I know this
because I had a lot of soldiers working for me at one time or another
who had a Korean wife.
Suffice it to say that the primary lesson I learned was not to assume
that that darling young sloe-eyed girl, who casts her eyes to the floor
and smiles and nods, is anything other than a tiger who isn't unhappy
at the moment.
This became important when I sauntered into records and saw Millie, our
records clerk, showing pieces of paper to a young woman.
Kelani was Oriental.
Then I actually took time to think about the name. Kelani was
Polynesian, most likely Hawaiian.
Many among the unwashed masses of maledom think that all slant-eyed
women look the same, and behave the same. Nothing could be
further from the truth.
While I'm not an expert on the subject, I was aware that Polynesian
women are a little different than Korean women. I haven't
known as many of them, only two, in fact, and neither of them
well. But the sense I got was that they were more assertive
and less subservient on a cultural level to begin with. That
culture also ascribes the same level of importance to pleasure that the
Koreans do to work. Captain Cook thought that the Polynesian
girls were trying to seduce his sailors, when in reality, they were
just curious as to whether these white men would make them feel any
better than the men they were used to. It wasn't
seduction. It was just how they lived their lives.
Of course interacting with the white man fucked all that up, but that's
Millie looked up and said something. Kelani turned to look at
Korean and Chinese women have round faces. Japanese women
have a longer, thinner face, with lighter skin and a more delicate
epicanthic fold in the eyes. Chinese and Korean women look
sturdy, and are. Japanese women look delicate and fragile,
which they can be.
Polynesian women are a mixture of the two, with an oval face and
almond-shaped eyes with a tilt that is there, but isn't obvious about
it. They are taller than Korean women, but shorter than their
Japanese counterparts. Generally, they are shapely and rarely
have either flat chests or huge breasts. They look athletic,
rather than stout. Kelani was all of those things, though
softened somehow. There was a component to her looks that I
couldn't classify. She had the requisite thick, blue/black,
straight hair that draped down her back, held from misbehaving with a
jeweled band. It wasn't a pony tail. It was more
like the short train of a wedding gown. Except it was black,
I realized my heart rate had increased from its normal 70 beats per
minute to my training heart rate of about 125 bpm.
This girl wasn't merely good looking. She was ravishing ...
gorgeous ... incredible. There weren't adjectives of a lofty
enough nature to classify her.
I suddenly realized I was in deep, deep trouble.
Then I realized I was going to be in even more trouble when the two
women staring at me saw the tent that was about to develop in the front
of my slacks.
"I'll be in my office when you're finished with her," I said.
Then I turned and hurried to my desk, where I could sit down and hide
my growing erection.
Kelani appeared within five minutes. She stood hesitantly in
the doorway and looked at me.
The standard setup for a field agent in the D.C. Inspector General's
office is a room about twelve by twenty feet, within which there are
two standard issue five foot desks, two four drawer file cabinets, two
what I call night stands, two desk chairs, and two straight-backed
interview chairs. If you're a GS-12 or above, you can usually
get a couple of bookshelves. Otherwise you have to supply
your own. Toss in the odd personal items of decor
and there isn't a lot of excess room. Cover the desk with a
computer monitor and keyboard, plus piles of case files and supporting
documents, and ... well ... it looks like bureaucratic Hades.
It can be, actually ... but never mind that.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi," I said back.
"Uh ... I'm Kelani ... I think we're going to be working
together?" Her voice had that lilting accent that many people
mistake for British, but which I knew to be Australian. She
didn't sound too sure of what she had just said. That's not
strange. Being dropped cold into a government operation can
be a confusing and even frightening experience. And she
couldn't be a day over eighteen, so she had no experience.
Except I knew that to be an Agent, she had to be at least
twenty-one. Which was patently impossible for this woman.
"Are you an intern?" I asked.
Her cheeks turned pink. "I just graduated from FLETC," she
said, her voice suddenly hard. It was the first exhibition of
a trait I would see many times in the future, and come to respect.
FLETC, which is pronounced Flet-see, stands for the Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center. It's in Glynco, GA, not far from
the Atlantic coast, and is where all federal law enforcement personnel
go through basic training. You wear a blue uniform at FLETC
if you're in basic training, and are therefore referred to as a Smurf
by all the other students. Those other students are already
members of the federal law enforcement community, whether it be the
Park Service, Border Patrol, Internal Revenue Service, and on and
on. The exceptions are the FBI and CIA, which train their
Smurfs, or whatever they're called, elsewhere. But even they
send their people to the advanced courses at FLETC. But
Smurfs had it the worst, because they were the not-even-rookies-yet
that everybody else looked down on. And it was a
demanding course, with a lot of attrition. Which was why
people who graduated from Smurf school didn't appreciate being mistaken
for mere interns.
"Oh," I said. "You look about seventeen."
"I'm twenty-three!" she said, getting even pinker.
"Well, I'm Bob, and that's your desk," I said, pointing at the other
desk in the room. It had at least a hundred and twenty pounds
of paper piled on it in manila file folders that were stacked a good
two and a half feet tall. "Welcome aboard."
She stood there, looking beautiful.
"Are those my cases?" she asked, sounding a little less sure of herself.
"Those are our cases," I said.
"How many are there?" she asked, sounding awed as she took a couple
steps toward the mountain of paper.
"At the moment only four," I said.
"That's four cases?" she gasped.
"Sorry," I said. "I misspoke. There are actually
only three on your desk. I'm working on the fourth one
here." I patted the three stacks of folders, each a foot
tall, that covered a third of my desk.
"That's insane," she said.
"That's the biz we're in," I replied.
"What do I do?" she asked.
Ahhhh. She had just scored a point. Instead of
trying to impress me with her self-perceived talents and value, she was
willing to ask for direction. It was a good sign. I
realized I had just thought about her as a criminal investigator for
the first time. That was a good sign too. Then I
realized I was staring at her chest.
Oh well. Baby steps.
Actually, it only took Kelani six days to get up to snuff on our cases,
which was better than impressive. She was intelligent and had
an eye for detail. She asked a lot of questions and had this
way of stating "truths" that she then let me either confirm or
correct. It was actually quite helpful to me too, because I
had to present the cases to her in some coordinated, logical
fashion. In the process something jumped out at me in one of
them which turned out to lead to the missing piece of the puzzle that
solved the case. I actually gave that lead to her as her
first lead to run down. Then I used that case for her to
learn how to write a final report on and present to the AUSA, which
stands for Assistant United States Attorney. He
took the case, but only because it was Kelani presenting it.
He wanted to keep her in his office for as long as possible, and the
only way to do that was to accept the case. I almost laughed,
watching him drool over her.
By then we had been working together for two months, and I had learned
how to shut my libido down upon command ... sort of. It,
meaning my libido, was a little like this mixed breed Black Lab puppy I
had when I was a kid. When I came home from school that dog
went absolutely apeshit until I had spent at least ten minutes paying
attention only to her. Then she'd calm down and be a normal
When Kelani first came in in the morning my libido acted like that
dog. I got an erection, had wild, crazy fantasies, and then
slowly doused the fire with buckets of reason. Necessity is
the mother of invention, so I invented a tradition where, for the first
fifteen minutes of each day, we went over what we had done the day
before, and what we were planning to do on that day.
While I stayed seated at my desk.
So she couldn't see what she had done to me.
I said it was to make sure we both knew what the other was doing, but
it was really just a way to let my vital signs return to normal after
the adrenaline rush of seeing her for the first time each day.
I'm serious. She was that good looking.
Still, it was a rocky start for her because we didn't build the normal
intimacy between partners that usually happens. I just
couldn't take her out to drink beer and shoot pool and chase
women. Or merely admire women if he was married.
And then there was the sudden influx of visitors to my office with
urgent, complicated, time consuming questions. They were all
males, of course, and at least half of them were married.
Doug Masters is in his fifties, has grandchildren and has been married
to the same woman for thirty years, and even he came in and drooled
over her. I talked to Joe and he had a meeting, while Kelani
was out on an interview, and basically told the guys she had a Samoan
boyfriend who was jealous, who had threatened my life, and who was
being kept on a short leash by his girlfriend. That
was all a lie, of course, but at least the gawkers slacked off and only
salivated from afar.
Five months into her probationary year, I knew I had a winner on my
hands, and was going to try to keep her as my partner for as long as
humanly possible. She was smart as a whip. She had
made her own case right there in the office when she saw a janitor
struggling with a trash can liner which kept slipping down into the
can. She chatted with the guy about it, and he complained
that the bags weren't tall enough. So she found the
specification sheet on the bags and figured out that all the bags on
the rolls in our office were two inches too short. That
expanded to all the bags we could find anywhere. It turned
out the contractor had set his machines to make the bags two inches
shorter than required. It doesn't sound like much, until you
realize he was making hundreds of millions of bags and charging the
government for all the plastic he wasn't using. Then he used
all that extra plastic to make even more bags to overcharge the
government for. It turned out to be a fourteen million dollar
case, and she made it in less than three weeks, based on chatting with
She always stayed in the office as long as I did, which was tough on
her because my job was my life. Army life can be hard on a
marriage. The closest I had come to getting married was being
engaged, and all it took was one tour in Korea for her to find another
bed to sleep in. I gave up women for a while, and got spoiled
after that, having things the way I liked them, so I never let a woman
get close enough again to threaten that.
We were actually catching up with the backlog of cases, and she had
only had one of her own cases refused by the AUSA. It was
good to have a partner I could hand off to in a tough interview, and
one I could trust at my back on a remote Corps of Engineers site where
some employee had been skimming from construction funds and our
presence announced his imminent long term change of residence from a
nice bungalow with a wife and kids, to a four by six prison cell in
Well the cells are bigger than that, I'm sure. But they're in
Leavenworth, Kansas, for pity's sake.
So all was going well. That didn't mean it was going
routinely. There was still something there that was keeping
us from having the same kind of partnership I had had in the
past. Think of a wall, erected between two people, who have
the magical power to wade through that wall to get to each
other. But it slows them down. It's an impediment to free and
easy communication sometimes. But you can get through it with some
I don't want to leave the impression that the cases suffered for
it. They did not. We worked really well together.
But there was this intangible thing there, an invisible elephant in the
room, if you will. I'm not explaining this well. It
was just different. And it was how I felt about her that made
I wanted to bang her like a drum.
And you're not supposed to feel that way about your partner.
So I erected the wall, to protect her from my base desires.
It was for that reason that we didn't know as much about each other as
normal partners would. I've had partners I didn't have to
talk to at all about a particular subject, because I knew what they
thought, and what they'd do in a given situation. That
seamless, almost married kind of relationship was what was missing with
Kelani and me.
I did know a few things, though. I knew, for example, that
she was from New Zealand, rather than Australia. I knew she
had graduated from USC with a bachelor's in accounting. We
worked out at the same time in the gym sometimes, so I was aware she
knew some kind of Kung Fu/Jujitsu/magic stuff that made me completely
confident she could take care of herself in a tough
situation. She sparred with Jake Whittaker pretty
regularly. Jake is a street fighting juvenile delinquent
turned law enforcement officer, who took to kick boxing in the academy
and held titles. I saw him land a blow on Kelani's head
exactly once. She rolled over backwards and came up mad as a
wet cat. She kicked the shit out of Jake without actually
hurting him at all. Well, his pride was thoroughly bruised,
but that was all. After that they just did workout fights,
with neither trying to win.
I knew that if she picked up a weapon, she'd be competent with it
within three or four rounds. She fired her assigned pistol
like she'd been born with it in her hand.
Kelani knew I was ex-military and had been in the unit for almost
seventeen years. She saw me lifting weights and working out,
so she knew I was in decent shape. I didn't run anymore,
because running had taken its toll on my knees. I swam
instead, though not enough to shed those fifteen pounds.
But the list of things we didn't know about each other was
prodigious. I saw her eat many different kinds of food, but
had no idea what she preferred. I intentionally avoided
asking about her love life, because I knew if I found out some guy was
tapping that regularly, I'd end up wanting to kill myself. Or
him. At least for a day or two. And she never asked
me about my dating life. She knew I wasn't married, but that
We didn't know what each other's hobbies or off-work
interests were. We didn't know what stores the other shopped
at. We didn't know where the other lived. I didn't
know if she drank beer or not.
It was a little like stories I had read, written by Isaac Asimov, where
a human detective worked with a robot detective. They were a
great team, but there was no real chemistry between them.
And that was our status when Joe assigned us the case that changed both
These days, if Joe had a case to assign us, he didn't necessarily call
me in as the senior Agent on the team. If I wasn't there,
he'd brief Kelani on it and give her the file. When I got
back, more often than not, she'd already have it broken out as to what
needed to be done immediately, and what could wait until we had more
time. And that's what happened with the Great Divide National
Park case. Joe called Kelani in, while I was out getting our
lunch and gave her the file. When I got back she had her
elbows on the desk, fists supporting her cheeks, reading.
"This guy is an idiot," she said.
"What you got?" I asked, handing her a bag with a double cheeseburger
and large fries in it. I also extended a cherry limeade.
"You ever heard of the Great Divide National Park?" she asked.
"Nope," I said.
"Well it's in the Rocky Mountains, and they have this rustic camping
operation up there. It's on government land, but run by a
contractor. The only way in or out is by horseback.
Snowmobile in the winter. But once you get there, they have
most of the comforts of home. They have a dining room, for
instance, where you can take your meals. Or you can take a
plate back to your cabin."
"Okay," I said, munching on my own food, fries, in this case.
"The manager requisitions all the supplies, and he's been going through
enough food to feed enough people to fill the camp year
round. He's been doing that for the last four
"And let me guess, the slots haven't been completely filled during
those four years," I said.
"Half-filled most of the time," she said. "It was being
looked at to cut because not enough people were using it.
That's when somebody noticed all the food going in there and notified
"What kind of food?" I asked.
"Steaks, prime rib, lobster, king crab, fresh fruits and vegetables,
you name it."
"Haven't got that far yet," she said. "Some of it gets used
up legitimately. And they get it in by chopper. Can
we count transportation costs?"
"Not usually," I said. "It's going to have to be the value of
the supplies we suspect are being diverted, and it's going to have to
be more than twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars for the AUSA to
even look at it."
"That shouldn't be a problem," she said. "Just my preliminary
look suggests it's going to be at least half a million."
"For food?" I was surprised.
"There are other supplies too. He's either ordering more than
he needs and selling some of it, or he's pocketing the fees for the
people eating it. I guess he could be letting people stay for
"It won't be that," I said. "If stuff is disappearing, it's
being converted to money somehow."
"Yeah, Joe said the same thing," she said.
"He give us any direction?"
"As a matter of fact, he did," she said. "Some Senator's wife
is on the board of Friends of the National Parks and she's all upset
"That's not direction," I said. "That's just notice that it's
going to be a pain in the ass."
"Maybe," she said. "But that's why he
wants us to go undercover and visit the camp."
"How do you want us to work this?" I asked Joe. Kelani was
standing right beside me.
"Take a bunch of camping gear and go as husband and wife," said Joe,
shrugging. "How else would you handle it?"
Images of camping with Kelani distracted me a bit.
"Just go camping?" I asked.
"Yeah," said Joe. "You can be a
businessman who has defense industry contracts, and Kelani here can be
your trophy wife. They'll buy that. I know you can
handle yourself in the wild." He looked at my
partner. "You done any camping?"
She laughed. "More than you could ever imagine," she
said. "I can play that role, no problem."
"Okay then, problem solved. You two go up there, stay a week,
find out where that stuff is going and whether the records match events
on the ground. If it's obvious, just bust him then and
there. Call us and I'll have the U.S. Marshals come in and
get you or something. And if you need time to make the case,
then just go home like all the other campers and finish the case when
you get back. It ain't rocket science, Bob."
And, just like that, Kelani was my trophy wife and we were going
camping in the mountains somewhere together for a week.
We had to rent a car, because of the amount of gear we'd have to haul,
which included sleeping bags, back packs with clothing for a week and
various other crap which we honestly didn't know if we'd need or
not. There was just too much of it to fly with. We
included my lock picking tools, cuffs and weapons. That part
was risky, because the flier advertising the "adventure experience"
specified in no less than four places that no weapons were
allowed. I didn't think they'd actually go through our stuff,
though. I threw in several cameras. They would be
expected, and we could use them to document various aspects of the
case, including paperwork we didn't want them to know we had copies of.
We gave ourselves two days to get from D.C. to the park. It
would take most of another day to trail ride up to the camp, according
to the information we'd received when we booked the trip.
Then a week of beautiful scenery, fantastic fishing and all the
wildlife we cared to photograph. Evenings provided
entertainment of various kinds, from fish fries to mountain music,
performed by staff members, to soaking in the hot tub while the air got
frosty around you. And it only cost about half of what a week
on a cruise ship in the Caribbean would run. Per person, of
We made it to St. Louis the first evening, and checked into an economy
motel. Per diem was covering everything, but we were expected
to make it stretch, since we made cases on everybody else exploiting
it. Kelani did most of the driving the first day and, to be
honest, I caught up on sleep. As such we didn't spend a lot
of time chatting.
I was the only partner she'd ever had, so she wasn't really aware that
most cops have a bond with their partner that is almost closer than the
husband/wife bond. Of course in our business we weren't
chasing crooks down alleys all that often, and I'd only pulled my gun
once in sixteen years. Even then it had been because there were five
bad guys, and just one of me to arrest them all, because my partner was
stuck on the other side of a locked door. So the feeling of
having each other's life in our hands wasn't at the forefront of our
working relationship. I was more the mentor, and she was the
bright up and coming star pupil at that point. We hadn't
spent hours on surveillance together or smelled each other's farts and
all that stuff.
So when we checked in and started toward adjacent doors to adjacent
rooms, and she said "Where we eating tonight?" I said "What makes you
think I know anything about St. Louis?"
She nodded and said "I'll figure something out. Be ready in
I left my jeans on, but changed shirts, putting on a button
down. As I put my arm through the sleeve I felt a twinge of
pain from the scar under my right arm where an Iraqi bullet had taken a
chunk of one rib and some flesh out during Desert Storm. It
was why I'd gotten out of the Army with seven years in and gone to work
for the IG's office in Washington. I was pretty sure that
when George H. stopped us before we got to Baghdad and actually
conquered that fucking country, that we'd see old Saddam
again. And the next time he'd know what to expect from the
United States Army. I don't mind sacrificing for my country,
but I want it to count for something, you know?
I heard the tap on my door and checked my watch. It had only
been eighteen minutes, but I wasn't going to quibble. I
opened the door and almost closed it again.
Kelani was dressed in skin tight leather pants, below a tank top that
made it completely clear that she wasn't wearing a bra. Her
hair was now in a thick pony tail that swished just exactly like a
pony's tail would. She had on sunglasses, and hoops now hung
from earlobes that I had no idea were pierced.
"You ready?" she asked.
"For this?" I asked, out of breath, my eyes darting all over her
body. "You must be joking."
"I take it I look like a trophy wife then?" She grinned.
"Call the paramedics, because I'm having the big one!" I gasped, and
then clutched at my chest.
"Don't overdo it," she chided. "You're supposed to be used to
"Darling," I said, dropping into my role as her older husband, "It
would take me thirty years to get used to this."
"Thank you!" she said, still grinning. "I worked hard picking
"Please tell me that's not what you brought to wear camping," I said.
"Oh, I have more," she said. "But it's summer, and it's
hot. Most of what I brought is pretty much the
same. I thought I was supposed to be a young hottie who
bagged an old fart."
"I'm not an old fart!" I complained.
"Of course not," she said too quickly and with almost no
credibility. "Should I go shopping for better clothes while
"Uh ... no," I said. "It will be fine. In fact, it
will work out very well. Everybody will be watching you, and
nobody will pay any attention to what I'm interested in at all."
"If you think so," she said. "Remember, I'm new at all this."
"I'll remember," I said, looking over her shoulder to avoid letting my
eyes drop to stare at breasts that were free as birds inside that
skimpy tank top. "We'll go over things tonight.
You'll be ready."
"Okay ... good," she said. "You ready to go? I'm
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